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Name: Coches Well Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 2WD/ 4WD due to possible water depth. Most of this should be accessible by high-clearance 2WD in dry conditions)
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: Southwest Arizona
Length: 30.6 miles total (round trip) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +1023 ft / -1023 ft / +0 ft (round trip)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 4000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: January, 2015
Short Description: An easy 2WD/4WD trip through some beautiful country near the border and a unique set of ruins
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Fraguita Peak ; Its Mine! ; Jolly Roger
References / Contact Information: NA
Points of interest: Coches Well Ruins, Fresnal Dam, Fraguita Spring, beautiful scenery
Special Considerations: Trail is located in illegal immigrant and smuggler high traffic area, see page regarding warning (it's not as bad as it sounds).
How to get there: From I-19, take the Arivaca exit and drive about 23 miles to Arivaca. Turn left (south) onto 5th Ave (Ruby road). Travel about 0.6 miles until you reach Waypoint 001 and FR216 (S. Fraguitas or W. Tres Bellotas Roads, it is not clear what the road is called at this point). Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is an awesome high-clearance 2WD trail (or easy 4WD trail) depending on weather, road conditions and driver experience. Forest Roads 216 and 601 are heavily used by the Border Patrol. They keep them in pretty good shape and under most circumstances can be traveled by a high-clearance 2WD vehicle. There are a ton of water crossings and if there's water flowing, this may be an issue with low clearance 2WD vehicles. There was a lot of water flowing when we went, but I believe these wash crossings are normally dry (or have very little water).

FR4122 to Faguita Springs in not regularly maintained like the main roads, but it was in very good shape when we drove it. This road will be a little more difficult than the main ones. If you're concerned about your vehicle, just bypass this road and keep to the main roads.

This adventure takes you to some very remote places in southern Arizona south of Arivaca. The area is extremely beautiful with rolling hills and sweeping canyons.

Note: When we visited the area, it was after two days of moderate to heavy rain and the morning had some fairly dense fog. This is very unusual, but it also made this an extremely memorable trip. You will see lots of photos with water and fog. This will probably not be the case when you visit.

Fraguita Spring
This is a nice spur road of the main trail that takes you through a canyon to a spring and mine. There's an old windmill and the construction of the well is interesting. There are plenty of beautiful camping spots along this road with large trees next to the wash.

Coches Well ruins
These are some really interesting and unique stone ruins next to Coches Well. The ruins are well-hidden among some very thorny trees and can be hard to find if you don't know where to look. The ruins are interesting for a few reasons. One, is the way they used sections of trees in the stone and mud walls. I've never seen this before. Also, the layout of the building is unlike what I've ever seen before. It's divided into a few sections. The exterior walls of two of the sections don't line up and one appears to have been open to the elements on one side. I believe this building has a two room living residence on one side and the barn or stable on the other. I also found it interesting how they sloped the stone walls, made sure the stone was flush on the interior of the building and left the exterior surface rough (you will see this in the photos).

Fresnal Dam
This is a beautiful stone and concrete dam built by A. Lemmon on April 20, 1940 (inscribed in the concrete on top of the dam). The dam is perhaps 15 feet above the canyon at its highest point and has long ago been filled in with sand and silt. We were lucky enough to see lots of water flowing across the dam and it was stunningly beautiful. I don't believe this is normal though. You can't drive directly to the dam. You must hike (bushwhack) to reach it.

General Information and History

The exact history of the ruins is not known (at least in my circles). Here's what I do know: Coche well and ranch was owned by Agustin Wilbur, the father of Eva who wrote the book, A Beautiful Cruel Country. Her father was the cruel one and he owned pigs (coches), hence the name. Agustin Wilbur took over the ranch around 1900, or maybe before.

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The Trail

At Waypoint WPT001, head south on FR216. This is typically a graded dirt road. For brevity, I am not going to describe each and every waypoint or trail leading off in different directions here. I will detail out only a few of them. Route finding is generally very easy. Typically, keep on the main road unless otherwise directed.

Keep driving on FR216 for 1.7 miles from WPT001 and keep straight, past FR4121 on your right (WPT004). Keep on FR216 for another 2.13 miles until you reach FR4122 at WPT007.

If you want, take a right here to visit Fraguita Spring. This forest road is not maintained like FR216. It was an easy 4WD (which could have been done by a high-clearance 2WD) when we ran it. This may not always be the case. Taking a right here, drive north on FR4122 for about 3/4 of a mile until you reach Fraguita Well and Spring on your right. There's a lot of nice camping spots along the way here too. You may notice the well with the old car frame being used as part of the structural frame. I've never seen this before. The windmill was made by the American West Windmill Company in Amarillo, Texas. This is the first one of this brand I've ever seen. Usually, they are the Aeromotor windmills.

I would turn around here, but you can proceed another 1/4 miles further up the road if you wish. There is a nice area to get a view of the canyon here (a large flat spot to turn around). Immediately after the turn around spot, the road begins to climb up the side of the hill and you will find a good sized washout. We walked a ways up the road and did not drive this. It was a very good decision. If you make it past the first washout, the road quickly deteriorates and become impassible. There is not an area to turn around and backing up could be dangerous. We found nothing of interest walking up the road, but did not take it to its completion.

When you're done at Fraguita Spring, head back to FR216 and take a right at WPT007.

Drive another 0.57 miles along the road until you come to WPT009 and drive straight on the main road. Soon after this you will come to the Las Jarillas Ranch on your left. The road used to bear left here and go through a portion of the ranch, but the Forest Service recently bypassed this with the road on your right which you will be traveling on. I believe it still clips their property, but it's an authorized road.

Keep on the main road for another 0.9 miles until you reach WPT011 at FR4119. Keep straight on FR216. Stay on the main road (FR216) for another 2.64 miles until you reach a major intersection at WPT014. you will go through a saddle on your way to WPT014 and begin to drive down the other side. At WPT014, bear right on the less traveled road (FR601). FR216 is to the left.

Now, you're on FR601, which isn't as well-maintained as FR216, but was still in very good shape when we traveled on it. Drive 0.89 miles until you reach Coches Well at WPT015. There's a nice parking area on the right. You will find a couple of old 1950s aircraft engine containers and a windmill here. Park in the area on the north side of the road.

You may not be able to see the ruins from the parking area. I could not. They are 200 feet almost directly northeast of the parking area. The area is thick with trees and brush and can be a little disconcerting. You may not be able to see your vehicles from the ruins and can get turned around. If you're prone to get lost easily, take precautions here.

Take some time to really look at these unique ruins. There's some interesting features here (see above). When you're done and you wish to visit Fresnal Dam, continue heading southwest along FR601.

Continue driving for another 2.45 miles until you reach WPT016. This can be a confusing intersection. Keep going "straight" past the road on your right, then the road on your left. When we went, the road on the left was the most traveled, but not sure this is always the case. See maps page for Google Earth image for more information on this intersection.

Drive another 1.42 miles until you reach WPT017, where there's some stone ruins on the right side of the road. We missed them on the way down and they can be easy to miss. Continue on FR601 for another 0.38 miles until you reach WPT018.

This section of the road can be much more difficult to drive. The short hill into the wash can be rutted and require 4WD. The wash itself can be very sandy and easily bury a vehicle. Use caution here. It is only 0.3 miles along FR4155 until it ends at the wash (WPT019). You can park here and walk the 0.43 miles upstream to Fresnal Dam (which we did). Google Earth also shows other "roads" in the area, but I don't believe these are valid roads and we did not see them (they were overgrown). You can also see a concrete tank in Google Earth in the area. It's not too exciting, just a tank. You can also bushwhack to the dam via FR601. It's shorter, but the brush is thicker and pricklier.

We hiked the roughly 1/2 mile up the wash to the dam at WPT020. Just beyond the end of the road, you will come to a "fence" across the wash made out of steel cable and metal roof panels. Take a look at the concrete supports on either side. These seem overkill and it looks as though the cable passes through the one on the south. Very interesting.

Be warned there is some very soft sand in this wash. I stepped in some "quick sand" and sunk down to my knees. It was as struggle to get out. If there's not a lot of water this may not be an issue, but you never know.

The southern side of the dam (the lowest) has the name and date inscribed on it. When you're done looking at the dam, go back the way you came.

You can return to Arivaca the way you drove in.

Have fun and be safe!

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

Area a little rougher in past years

April, 2015:
Matt, once again, you found a beautiful place to adventure to.  This part of S. Az. Has many.  I recall that a year or two ago you explored, I think, Warsaw Cyn and then more recently, Presumido.
Years ago, before the FS road markers, I spent a lot of time in this area.  Tres Bellotas was an open thorofare for drug smugglers coming in from Saric and Tubatama, MX.  There was not much law enforcement in the area and no locked gates.  2 1/2 T trucks would bring up marijuana with impunity - most times.  Also horse loads would come up over Yellow Jacket Mine rd. And either deposit their loads near Ruby road for later pick up or cross Ruby Rd. And continue on to Arivaca Rd. For subsequent pick up.  Of course there was no Border Patrol checkpoint on Arivaca Rd. Back then. 
To complicate enforcement matters further, that area was generally the extreme boundary between the Tucson and Nogales Border Patrol stations and lightly worked, if at all.  I worked for a different agency and we would have weeklong camp outs in the area. We always caught large loads when we worked the area between Fraquita /Black Mesa and Bear Valley. Arivaca wasn't built up much then and we would surreptitiously follow these loads to their ultimate destinations in Tucson, etc. using vehicles and aircraft.

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